How to Make: Norfolk Dumplings

Norfolk Dumplings Feature Pic, How to Make Norfolk Dumplings

Welcome back! As we’re getting on the fall season (and chillier weather),  a nice warm soup recipe is the perfect thing to try. Today’s post focuses on Norfolk Dumplings. This is another ‘frugal’ recipe from Juliet Corson’s cookbook on cooking cheaply for a large family. If you are curious to check out another recipe from her cookbook, click here to check out the Cheese Pudding I made.

Before we jump into the recipe, I want to ask a question. Have you ever made a recipe that sounded fancy, special, or unique and then upon making it realized it was more common than you originally thought?

That would be my experience with this recipe. While it is delicious, after making it, I realized it is essentially the British version of chicken and dumplings (but a version that could be made with any meat or even without). In researching the recipe, I came to find out that it is a common staple food in the county of Norfolk in England. (Hence the name.) So much so, that this dish is synonymous with the region. For those interested in learning more about the history of the dish, there are a couple of good websites that go into that subject. (Here and Here)

In Norfolk lingo, these dumplings were usually called ‘sinkers’ or ‘swimmers’ depending on how well they were made. If they were made well, they’d ‘swim’ or float to the top. If they were too dense, they’d sink to the bottom. Either way, they were considered a cheap, simple, and filling meal for people who didn’t have a lot of money to spend on food. (Given that Norfolk has a long history of agriculture, this meal was also perfect for people working out in the fields all day.)

Fast forward to today and jump across the pond to America and we have Juliet Corson’s recipe for Norfolk dumplings, that when cooked in chicken stock and chicken is added, looks and tastes a lot like chicken dumplings.

Cookbook: Twenty-Five Cent Dinners for Families of Six
Author: Juliet Corson

Published: 1878/1879

Original Recipe

1 lb and 1 oz of flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/2 pint milk

1 oz of butter

Mix by sifting together one pound of flour, one teaspoon of salt, and two of baking powder, make into a soft dough with one egg, half a pint of milk and a very little water, and drop them by the tablespoonful in the soup; be careful that the pot does not stop boiling, or the dumplings will be heavy.

At the end of three-quarters of an hour stir together over the fire in a large sauce-pan one ounce each of butter and flour, and when they are nicely browned, gradually add, and mix with an egg-whip or large fork, a pint of the boiling soup. Take up the meat and dumplings on the same dish, strain the soup into the sauce you have just made, and mix it thoroughly; put a little of it over the meat and dumplings, and serve the rest in the soup tureen; it is very nice with small dice of toast in it.

My translation of the Recipe:

2 and 1/8 cups of flour (I messed this up a little bit. Apparently, 1 pound of sugar is 2 cups, whereas 1 pound of flour (all purpose) is about 3.5 cups. This made the dumplings a bit stickier, but they still tasted good in the end)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 tbsp of Water (roughly)
2 tbsp of butter
Equal amounts stock and water for soup (I use 2 cans of stock and 2 cans of water)
1-2 lbs of your choice of meat (chicken, beef, etc)

Seasonings if desired

  1. Sift together the dry goods. (2-3.5 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 2 teaspoons of baking powder)
  2. Add one egg, one cup of milk, and a little water to make into a soft dough.
  3. Meanwhile,  get your stock and water together and boil. If you choose to use seasonings (which I recommend), add them to the soup.
  4. When your soup is boiling, drop tablespoonfuls of the dough into the soup; be careful that the pot does not stop boiling, or the dumplings will be heavy (and be ‘sinkers’).
  5. While your dumplings are cooking in the soup,  stir together in a large sauce-pan two tablespoons of butter and a one-eighth cup of flour. When they are nicely browned, gradually add, and mix with a whisk or large fork,  two cups of the boiling soup.
  6. Remove the dumplings from the soup. There will still be smaller bits in the soup and that is fine.
  7. Mix up the meat and dumplings on the same dish.
  8. Strain the soup into the sauce you have just made, and mix it thoroughly.
  9. Put a little of it over the meat and dumplings in each bowl and serve the rest in a communal soup bowl.
  10. If desired, add diced toast or other favorite sides (cheese, green onions, etc) to each bowl.


Ingredients for Norfolk Dumplings
Ingredients for Norfolk Dumplings (plus chicken stock and chicken)

As you can see, the ingredients for this recipe are fairly simple: milk, flour, baking powder, salt, butter and an egg are the only ‘required’ ingredients. All of these could be found in even the most basic kitchen at the end of the 19th century. The chicken stock and cooked chicken are my addition as the recipe calls for ‘soup’ and ‘meat’, but doesn’t specify. This means the 19th-century housewife making this dish could use whatever meat was on hand. Had extra bits of beef, lamb, or pork? It could be used in this recipe. Have some bone broth or vegetable broth left over? Cook the dumplings in it for a filling meal. I also added seasonings that were not necessarily required and are up to personal preference.

Dumpling Dough
Dumpling Dough
So I made the mistake of using less flour than the recipe called for, however, the dough was still goopy enough to scoop with a spoon and drop into the boiling soup. The dumplings cooked just fine, they just didn’t look as pretty as they would have otherwise. Next time I make this recipe, I’ll probably use more flour, so the dumplings are less lumpy.


Boiling the Dumplings in Chicken Stock
Boiling the Dumplings in the Soup

This is what the soup will look like while the dumplings are cooking. (You can even see that some of the dumplings are ‘floaters’.) The soup will be very hot when the dumplings are in it, (because the soup is supposed to continue boiling while the dumplings cook) so I would recommend being careful when dropping the dumplings in. I got splashed a couple of times and that wasn’t too fun.

Chicken Stock Soup without the dumplings and Norfolk 'Roux'
The Chicken Stock Soup (after dumplings have been removed) and Norfolk Dumpling Roux before straining and mixing the two together.

I started making the roux while the dumplings were still cooking (and in the pot), but it could also be made after removing the dumplings from the pot. You’ll probably get a few tiny bits of dumpling in the roux when you mix the soup in, but that’s fine and in my opinion added to the taste and texture of the roux before adding in the rest of the soup.

Cooked Norfolk Dumplings
Cooked Norfolk Dumplings

They may be plain looking, but they were delicious. Especially once mixed with the meat (in this case, chicken) and added to the soup.

Norfolk Dumplings - Finished Product
The finished product! Norfolk Dumplings (with Chicken)


The End Result

Voila! Norfolk Dumplings (and chicken)! It was a warm, creamy dish that I thought tasted a lot like the chicken and dumplings of my childhood and reminded me of some of the comfort soups my mother would make when I was sick as a child. The only thing that I would add is probably a little more seasoning. That said, that’s the great thing about this recipe is that is it so customizable while keeping to the basic recipe. You can use any meat or keep it vegetarian. It can be flavored in any direction you may want and still be relatively good.

Questions? Comments?

Have any questions or comments? Curious as to what I’ll cook up next? Have any ideas for other recipes I should try? Let me know in the comments! And if you like what you’ve been seeing here on Tenacious Genealogy – please subscribe to our email list. Not only will you stay up to date with the latest blog posts, but you’ll also get access to freebies such as ’10 Tips for Starting Your Genealogy’ and other fun ‘subscriber only’ items!


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